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Tennis racket jargon explained


Originally published on: 26/02/10 16:39

1. Where to shop
If you know any specialist tennis shops then they should be your first port of call. Sports shops can help up to a point, but if you want expert advice about rackets that will help you improve your game you need tennis racket experts. Tennis clubs are a good option often they’ll have a pro shop with a wide range of demo rackets to try before you part with your cash.

2. Try before you buy
One man’s meat is another man’s poison, as they say, and tennis rackets are no different. Don’t make a decision without using a demo model of the racket you’re interested in you might hate it when you get on court.

3. Head size and length
Head sizes range from 90 sq in to an eye watering 135 sq in. Tennis pros generally use the smallest racket head sizes for a reason they’re tennis pros. You’re not, so allow for a little margin for error and go for something between 98 and 110 sq in. The bigger the head size, the bigger the sweetspot, the fewer brand new tennis balls in other people’s gardens.

4. Weight
When choosing remember that an average weight for a strung racket is around 10-11.5 oz. Unless you’ve got guns like Rafa, anything heavier may get tiring on the arm. Lighter rackets help player manoeuvre the frame through the air which can help with better preparation for strokes, while heavier rackets aid more powerful ball striking.

5. Balance / weight distribution
Head light = under 32cm
Evenly balanced = 32-35cm
Head heavy = over 35cm
The number refers to the distance from the butt of the racket to the point at which the racket balances. A general rule of thumb is that a ‘head heavy’ racket will be more powerful while a head light racket will be less unwieldy.

6. Stiffness
Traditionally, a stiffer frame means more power and a more flexible racket offers more control.

7. Length
A standard length racket will be 27in, while the longest a frame can legally measure is 29in. More length will help with power (and more reach to some extent) but the longer frames may feel more unwieldy.

8. Flex
This is measured in digital analysis points (DA) out of 100. Up to 60DA is flexible, 60-70DA is firm and over 70DA is very stiff. This reading is important because it gauges how much the racket head moves (or flexes) on impact with the ball. The smaller the flex, the longer the racket face will remain square to the target area (which helps generate power) but at the expense of feel.

9. Grip size
Grips come in sizes from 1-5. When you hold the racket handle there should ideally be a 1cm gap between your thumb and first finger. Grips that are too small can result in wrist and elbow injuries.

10. Strings
New rackets are now strung to a much higher standard than they ever were, but it’s still worth paying attention to this often-overlooked aspect of a racket. Tight strings will give more control, while looser strings offer more power. Thinner strings will give more feel (but will break more often) while strings with a thicker gauge will last longer but won’t give the same feel. An open string pattern (14 or 16 main or vertical strings) will help you put more spin on the ball, while a denser pattern (18 mains or more) means a more solid strike of the ball.


Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.